Maple Sugar, Bourbon, and Brown Butter Peach Crisp

It can be difficult to remember what season it is here in San Francisco when our typical foggy summer is in full swing. It actually drizzled this morning – unheard of in August.

But the produce section at our co-op tells a different story. Baskets brim with summer squash, eggplants, peppers, fresh beans and okra, not to mention half a dozen varieties of peaches.

And yet I found myself eying the winter squash, apples and sweet potatoes today, and dreaming of hearty soups made with beans and greens.

The joke will be on us come October, when we’re sweltering through Indian Summer and wishing for berries and corn again.

But peaches seem to have finally hit their stride. These bright red and orange guys, courtesy of Blossom Bluff Orchards, were perfectly fragrant with juicy, firm flesh. I managed to refrain from eating a few and baked them into this crisp, a good compromise between summer and fall.

I toss the peach slices with bourbon, vanilla bean and maple sugar. The bourbon functions like a cross between vanilla extract and lemon juice; a little tart, a little spicy, with a backbone of complexity and age. (Did that sound like an on-line dating profile, or is it just me?)

I added butter, browned with vanilla bean until it smells like everything good in the world, to the topping along with more maple sugar and quick oats. The texture turned out slightly softer than the original recipe from The Farm via Leite’s Culinaria that I doctored up this time last year with cardamom, plums, rhubarb and raspberries. I’m guessing the softness is due to the maple sugar, or perhaps the brown butter that I refused to chill back down and work in as per the original recipe, choosing to stir it into the topping willy-nilly. Even so, I wouldn’t change a thing. The crumbles clump, and the nubbier bits retain crunch even after a day or two in the fridge.

Crisp without ice cream is an abomination, so I churned up a batch of my favorite Dreamy Vanilla to serve with it.

It’s quite possibly my favorite dessert, ever. Summer comfort food. Though I bet it would be great made with apples or pears when it’s fall for real.

Peachy Keen:

Berry Peach Oven Pancake
Brown Butter Peach Buckle
Nectarine Crème Fraîche Pie

Crispy Crumbles:

Plum, Rhubarb, and Raspberry Cardamom Crisp
Ginger Plum Crumble
Gluten-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

One year ago:

Chocolate Bourbon Banana Cream Tart

Two years ago:

Cherry Frangipane Tart

Three years ago:

Zucchini Tomato Tart

Maple Sugar, Bourbon, and Brown Butter Peach Crisp

If you like nuts in your crisp, I think this topping would be tasty with 1/4 cup of chopped, toasted pecans. If you don’t have a vanilla bean on hand, add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the cooled, browned butter, and another 1/2 teaspoon to the filling along with the bourbon. I used Bulleit bourbon here, but any brand will do. If you don’t have or can’t find maple sugar, substitute an equal amount of light or dark brown sugar, or an unrefined sugar such as Alter Eco, in the topping, and maple syrup in the filling. And if you only have old-fashioned rolled oats, David Leite says you can whiz them in a coffee grinder to break them up a bit.

Makes 8 servings

Maple Sugar and Brown Butter Crumble Topping:
8 tablespoons (1 stick / 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup quick (a.k.a. baby) oats
1/2 cup maple sugar (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea or kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
flaky salt and coarse sugar for sprinkling

Bourbon Peach Filling:
2 pounds ripe but firm peaches (6-8 peaches / 6 cups sliced)
1/4 cup bourbon whiskey (such as Bulleit)
1/4 cup maple sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped

Dreamy Vanilla Ice Cream, for serving

Brown the butter:
Combine the butter and vanilla pod half and seeds in a small saucepan. Melt the butter over medium heat, and continue to cook until the butter turns golden with dark brown flecks, about 5 minutes, swirling frequently. Toward the end, the butter will foam up dramatically; watch it closely at this point. Let the browned butter cool at room temperature while you prepare the filling. (If the butter is at risk of over-browning, pour it into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup to stop the cooking.) Remove the pod and discard (or wash, dry, and save it for another use).

Prepare the filling:
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375º. Have a 10″ oven-proof skillet (or a 10″ solid tart or pie pan, or something equivalent) at the ready

Cut the peaches in half, then cut each half into six to eight slices. Place in a large bowl (or right into the baking vessel) and sprinkle with the bourbon.

In a small bowl, combine the maple sugar and vanilla pod and scrapings, rubbing the seeds into the sugar to distribute them evenly. Remove and discard the pod (or save it for another use). Stir the cornstarch into the sugar, then add to the bourbony peaches, tossing gently to coat. Distribute the peaches evenly in the baking vessel.

Make the topping:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, maple sugar, nutmeg and salt. Stir in the melted, cooled brown butter, stirring with a spoon or your hands until the mixture forms large clumps.

Scatter the crumble topping over the peaches, taking the time to form some of it into small, hazelnut-sized balls. Scatter a bit of flaky salt over the top, as well as some coarse sugar.

Bake the crisp until the topping is golden and the fruit is bubbling, 45-60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably with vanilla ice cream. (Leftovers make a tasty breakfast, cold from the fridge, with yogurt instead of ice cream.)

29 thoughts on “Maple Sugar, Bourbon, and Brown Butter Peach Crisp”

    1. Thank you, Erin! So sorry to hear about the loss of peaches in your neck of the woods. Let me know how the crisp goes with the apples! I'm currently drooling over EVERYTHING on your site – yum!!! :)

  1. Oh my goodness, your blog is just beautiful Alanna. You are so talented and I'm very glad I found it! Thank you for sharing these lovely photos…this crisp looks heavenly.

  2. Oh yum! That looks delicious — and that last shot with the melty ice cream dripping down the side of the mug is out of this world! I just discovered your blog and I love it!

  3. Our weather has been very confusing out here on the east coast as well. There's definitely a fall chill in the air, which is totally fine by me after some of the gross days we experienced earlier in the summer. Baked stone fruits always make me think of fall being just around the corner, especially when there's a little bourbon involved! Topped with summery vanilla ice cream? Oh yes. Perfect compromise between seasons. :)

  4. Just found your blog recently and have been browsing for hours! Everything looks fantastic!! I am making this peach crisp tonight with ingredients I picked up at my farmer's market :)

    1. Thank you for the sweet words, Morgan! I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog, and I hope you love the crisp! It's definitely one of my favorite desserts, ever. Come back and tell me how you like it, k? :)

  5. Delicious recipe–that vanilla brown butter alone was an amazing taste–but too salty for our taste. I would lessen the salt in the recipe as well as eliminate the sprinkle at the baking end of recipe. It seemed like it would impart a "salty caramel" taste but I just tasted too much salt. Tasty recipe though.

    1. Thank you for trying out the recipe, and thanks for the feedback – I really appreciate it! I realize that I didn't specify which type of salt I use (fine sea salt) and I've amended that up above. If you used table salt, this could explain the overly-salty flavor, since table salt is finer and has a harsher flavor than sea or kosher salt. If this is the case, then that was my fault, and I'm really sorry.

    1. Hm, that's a good question. Are the peaches sweetened and heat-processed? If so, I would omit the sugar from the fruit part of the recipe, and you may not want to bake it as long lest the peaches break down too much. You may want to double the cornstarch in the filling to be safe, too. Let me know how it goes?

    1. Yeah, we San Franciscans have got to be the wimpiest spoiled brats in the world. Ah well, at least you have snow i.e., water, unlike us! Either way, I do hope you get some peachy crisp in your life soon! This is one of my very favorites. :)

    1. Not sure. If it were me, I would try Earth Balance Buttery Spread and omit the salt in the recipe. Please let me know how it goes!

  6. Hello,

    I never leave comments unless I have questions or have actually made a featured recipe as “this looks good” is not generally very informative. I have made this recipe on four seperate occasions now and can report that each group to whom I presented this dish absolutely devoured it! Yes, it did look gorgeous, but more importantly, the rich, complex, comforting and indulgent flavour combination of peach, maple and brown sugar are so glorious that guests unanimously declare it to be a new fave which must be made again and again.:) Thanks so much for this treasure!

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